Last year, 30-year-old Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was punished for starting a progressive website that called for, among other things, religious tolerance and women’s rights. That was insulting to Islam, said his critics. He was sentenced at the time to seven years in prison and 600 lashes.
His sentence was overturned… but that respite was brief. In May, Badawi was given an even harsher punishment:
… the Criminal Court has sentenced Badawi to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a one million riyal fine (USD $266,631).
That’s why this week’s news that the country’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — which is tasked with enforcing Sharia Law — has called for the arrest of atheist bloggers wasn’t very surprising. They’ve been doing it for quite some time already.
I should note that the story has not been confirmed anywhere else, but this is what GulfNews.com reported:
The commission did not divulge the number of people whose arrest it requested, but it said that they insulted God and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
It added in a report about its work and achievements that it was coordinating closely with the telecommunication and information technology commission to block and shut down pornographic sites as well as sites that promote apostasy and atheism.
It’s a human rights violation to say the least, but there seems to be little we can do right now to protect the rights of atheists and other critics of religion in the country (a demographic that is surprisingly growing). This is, after all, a country where atheism is already considered the equivalent of terrorism.
(Portions of this article were posted earlier. Thanks to Dave for the link)